Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Need to discuss ideology more than personalities in Sikkim Politics

Sikkim joined the world’s largest democracy nearly four decades ago, but political engagement here is clearly yet to mature to a level where political thought and ideology become talking points among the lay citizens. The real aspirations of the young and the expectations of the masses are still addressed piecemeal and offered mostly short-term solutions; political debate remains limited to leader/ party-affiliated stands and does not engage at an ideological level. Politics in Sikkim, everyone will agree, is not influenced by political thought or theory, and is instead dictated by situational and personal exigencies. Poll performances and political relevance continue to be decided by personalities and not ideology. This is unfortunate because while individual brilliance is necessary for a politician, for politics to mature, the political space requires ideology-driven discussions and positions, not priorities dictated by personality cults. We, in Sikkim, are lagging behind in evolution of clear political concepts.
We love to talk politics, but such discussions are limited to gossip about leaders and “party-politics” [which is not Politics in any real sense]. There is not enough reading up on political thought or enough charcha on sociopolitical developments, ideological differences or even any real worry over the absence of any noticeably different ideologies. Such reference points have not been established for political discussions in Sikkim. One possible reason for this could be our general reluctance to “read” and become better informed about the evolution of political thought around the world and then approach our politics from that perspective. And while on reading, it needs to also be accepted that nothing of note has been written about politics in Sikkim. The watershed events like the birth or political parties, the democratic movement, merger and the nearly forty years since and the four governments since have been documented, but not evolution, no development has been analysed and shared. Hence, even if someone were keen to understand why politics took certain turns in Sikkim, there is no worthy analysis available. And so we just gossip, and our parties, well, they just play politics and feel no pressure to share a coherent world view or ideology-driven longterm plan.
There are very few reference books on Sikkim’s sociopolitical or economic progress [or lack of it], and though I am not a student of History or Political Science, as a journalist, I have seen enough to notice that not enough people are following the neo-political aspirations or thoughts of the current times.
The thoughts and political views of a landlocked hill state, unless informed by wider reading and awareness, stands the risk of becoming regressive and closed. This attitude needs to change, and a beginning can be made by having more open and frank discourses and providing socio-political literature to the younger generation so that the very concept of the socio-politics in Sikkim is understood and evaluated in clearer light.
This is easier said than done. Sikkim is perhaps the only state where one cannot find even one well-appointed library. Lack of reference books, boring literature when available and admittedly less than professional levels of journalistic writing and reflection have bequeathed a society with an acute reading deficit. [This can be a chicken and egg situation for some as the debate is still open on what should come first – good writing or interested readers]
Be that as it may, if you want to invest in knowledge and hope to see Sikkim evolve into a knowledge-based society, invest first in institutions like good libraries. The future will grow better informed from such institutions. Don’t do that, and politics will continue to be about name-calling and rumours, unattached to ideology and subservient to personalities instead of cogently reasoned out ideologies.

1 comment:

  1. Could this be because most of us here in Sikkim are government employees who, under Conduct Rules 1981, are forbidden to be associated with anything related to politics; in fact this bar extends to their family members too. This is probably why discussions on politics are confined to dark corners and nothing more meaningful than whispered gossips get discussed. Under such circumstances, it behoves on the print media to keep us abreast on prevailing political discussions around the world. I know many who have found a want to circumvent this problem; whenever the desire to discuss politics gets the better of them, these people discuss politics at the Centre and carefully avoid references to local politics.
    I don't agree with the writer on libraries in sikkim. In every district and in every subdivision in sikkim, the government has established libraries. In fact, even the panchayat ghars are supposed to have a decent collection of books and magazines. However, the number of people who frequent these libraries in embarrassingly abysmal. In fact, how many people know that the present Secretariat houses a Community Library which has a good collection of books and journals. In fact, the people who work in the secretariat remain unaware, leave aside them visiting the place.


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